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J Neurosci. 2010 Sep 15;30(37):12353-65. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0677-10.2010.

The role of the primary visual cortex in perceptual suppression of salient visual stimuli.

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Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.


The role of primary visual cortex (area V1) in subjective perception has intrigued students of vision for decades. Specifically, the extent to which the activity of different types of cells (monocular versus binocular) and electrophysiological signals (i.e., local field potentials versus spiking activity) reflect perception is still debated. To address these questions we recorded from area V1 of the macaque using tetrodes during the paradigm of binocular flash suppression, where incongruent images presented dichoptically compete for perceptual dominance. We found that the activity of a minority (20%) of neurons reflect the perceived visual stimulus and these cells exhibited perceptual modulations substantially weaker compared with their sensory modulation induced by congruent stimuli. Importantly, perceptual modulations were found equally often for monocular and binocular cells, demonstrating that perceptual competition in V1 involves mechanisms across both types of neurons. The power of the local field potential (LFP) also showed moderate perceptual modulations with similar percentages of sites showing significant effects across frequency bands (18-22%). The possibility remains that perception may be strongly reflected in more elaborate aspects of activity in V1 circuits (e.g., specific neuronal subtypes) or perceptual states might have a modulatory role on more intricate aspects of V1 firing patterns (e.g., synchronization), not necessarily altering the firing rates of single cells or the LFP power dramatically.

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